After speaking with Steve Seal who is based around there now, I was full of ideas and places to try (cheers Steve!), starting first with a place called Meols. This spot looks promising (note to self: return when the sun is out!), with plenty of sand and mud along the front attracting lots of varieties of waders, gulls plus herons and little egrets. Behind the esplanade, is an area of scrub / dunes / farmland which held stonechats when I was there, and I suspect a great deal more, had there not have been so many mozzies around that morning.
The idea of the day, from another friend Rob Smith, was to witness a high tide, forcing the birds out of the nearby marshes, which would be good for pics of them, plus the additional prospect of the raptors hunting these flushed birds. Problem was, as we later found out from a member of the RSPB staff, that the water wasn't high enough, nor the weather conditions suitable for such an event, so we would never get to see such a spectacle that day. Nevermind.
With Steve's info though, I started at Meols and wandered along the front to Leasowe, watching the waders more than photographing them, as the light was dreadful. I think next time I go, I'll have more idea of where to stand for the birds as the tide comes in, as I walked a bit far back towards Meols, and missed a fair few, but I did get some iffy shots of turnstones and little egrets as they took advantage of the incoming waters.
Once the sands had vanished, I took a couple of pics of the now floating fishing boats in some brief sunshine, before zipping along the coast to Hoylake. Again, I was a bit caught out at the speed of things here, as the tide seemed miles away when I arrived. Opting for a walk around the back of the marshes there, I was rather surprised to find the tide almost in literally minutes later!
The marshes held a few warblers and reed buntings, plus I heard a water rail squealing nearby. But the tide brought in huge flocks of oystercatchers, which took flight, forming dark clouds in front of Hilbre Island.
Down to Parkgate next, where Rob had opted to aim for. By then he had worked out that the tide wouldn't be high enough, both from the lack of water and lack of other birders! Oops. Oh well, we headed south instead to the RSPB reserve of Inner Marsh Farm. The little bit of sun that had been around had now gone again, and from the hide we could see various waders, including godwits and ruff. The highlight of this visit came after about an hour, when Rob clocked a hen harrier quartering the marshes. And as usual with poor light, my camera failed to focus on it, and within moments it had gone. Gutter!
Fortunately, it returned on a surprise attack later, and I managed a few record shots of it, as it few away from us. A great looking bird - I've only seen one before, at dusk in January, when I was in Norfolk.
With the light failing further, I had a quick walk around the marshes down the road, by a rifle range, but by then I was starting to feel the effects of the early start, and whilst Rob headed back to Gayton (where he saw a one-eyed barn owl), I set off home, down a more normal-looking M6.
Definitely an area I want to explore more though...